The Divine: A play for Sarah Bernhardt By: Haley Harp

Introduction: The Divine was a play about an actress named Sarah Bernhardt. Seeing the play included many experiences including spacial, social, cultural and intellectual, and emotional. Each of these elements plays a role in the Good Life in its own unique way.

The spatial experience: The theatre itself was very nice. The location of it was great and allowed me to feel comfortable because it was here at UF. This didn't require me to navigate a new area of town and feel flustered trying to make sure I was in the right place. I was able to walk over to the theatre, check in, and find my seat with ease. Once inside the theatre, I sat in the pit, right up next to the stage. This allowed me to get a good view of the set and really be able to analyze the symbolism that could be portrayed, and see what I could learn about the play before any actor uttered a single line. This location also made me a prime target for interaction with the actors. Several of them made eye contact with me during the show and even waved to me in scenes where the characters were supposed to be in front of large crowds. This made me even more engaged in the play! With the lights dimmed, and the audience quietly listening to the actors, I felt like I was a fly on the wall. Since I was so close, I felt like I was part of the action, but as an observer instead of a contributor. In the Good Life, place can make a lot of difference. In any situation, it's hard to really express yourself and take in all an experience has to offer if you are uncomfortable or anxious about where you are. Having such a nice theatre in a convenient location really helped me be able to focus on what the play was trying to communicate to me.
The social experience: When first heading out to go to the play, I was going alone. I didn't realize that I had other friends who were going that night as well. As I was walking up to the theatre, I ran into two of my friends. It was a nice surprise because I don't like to do things like this by myself. When we first went to our seats, we read through the booklet they handed out as we were walking in and we tried to learn about the background of the play and see if the booklet gave us any main themes to watch out for. We also began talking to some of the other students sitting around us about their expectations of the play. It was cool to see how everyone interpreted the set and used it to make predictions about what they thought would happen. Having others there to bounce ideas and predictions off of helped me to get more view points about the play and see how others interpreted things. It made me open my mind a little more and be ready for the wide variety of things that the play could present to me. When pursuing the Good Life, shared experiences are good for just that, bouncing ideas off each other and getting more perspective. Everyone interprets a situation or an experience through their own lens. The talkback was also a great way to gain perspective on the production. The purpose of this was to allow the viewers to learn more about the cast and to ask any questions that you may have. This allowed us to gain insight as to how the production itself was put on with lighting and set design, as well as to how to actors felt about the roles they played and the kinds of things they wanted to portray with their performances. It was more of a social experience than just sitting and listening to them talk, it was a discussion of sorts and it helped tie the whole experience together.
The cultural and intellectual experience: The content of the play got very dark very fast. It dealt with painful issues like molestation, the search for identity, and human rights. Seeing that this was based in the early 1900s and knowing that it was based on a true story was very eye-opening. Issues like this seem to be a modern phenomenon, and it was interesting to see that they are issues that have been around for much longer. Even though Talbot's history of being sexually abused seemed front and center, I think the central issue was the search for identity because it was shown in almost every character. Michaud wasn't sure if he was meant to become a priest, he had more passion for the art theatre. During the play he had to decide if he would rather give up everything he had been primed for through his childhood, or follow his dream. Similarly, Talbot was trying to overcome his past and live a life that was pleasing to him family, while also feeling fulfilled and satisfied. He had a big internal conflict where he wasn't sure whether or not he wanted to turn his molester in to the police because he didn't want to be seen as a victim. He didn't want his identity to be affected by the wrongdoings of this man. Those are just the two main examples, but virtually every character seemed to be searching for their true identity. Before seeing the play, I knew that those issues were present in today's society, but I never expected them to be so huge in a time period so far in the past. The show made me see these issues as human issue, not modern issues or generational issues, but purely human issues. as a college student, the search for identity is very relevant. Trying to pick a career path is scary and it can define who you become in your adult life, so this desire to follow your dreams while also following social norms is very relevant to my life.
The emotional experience: The Divine is a play that features a lot of characters "coming clean" in their search for true identity they have to admit to their mistakes, wrongdoings, and shameful pasts. They also have to admit that they aren't satisfied with their lives the way they are. Seeing them struggle through this and come out on top is refreshing and inspiring. It shows us that if we follow our dreams and seek out or true identities, it may be hard, but we will come out on top and be who we ultimately want to be in the end.

Picture for the title slide was taken from Google, and I got permission from Maddie Mitchem and Lauren Loveless to include their pictures in the "Social Experience" section.

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